From wags to readers

Ok, Willow my beloved cocker spaniel is not actually writing this column – it is about dogs, not by a dog.

Ok, Willow my beloved cocker spaniel is not actually writing this column – it is about dogs, not by a dog. Although I’m sure if Willow had thumbs and could put pen to paper she’d have some very excellent advice to share about life.

After all she’s got it pretty good. Hand-delivered meals, full enjoyment of a queen-sized bed all day, an owner who loves to take her to the beach or park and the opportunity to earn cheese cubes at her favourite training class. She even has a custom-made snow suit so we don’t have to worry about snowballs building up  on her fur during ski or snowshoe adventures.

But I just put her picture at the top to prove a point.

People love dogs. They love to read about dogs and I’m no exception. Be honest. You are likely still reading because you know this column is about dogs. Why?

Because dogs are terrific. They are always happy to see you and demonstrate it daily with a full-body wag. They never betray a confidence, they somehow know exactly when you need a cuddle and there’s no better personal trainer than a dog who is used to a regular walk.

So I’m betting that a column with Willow’s picture at the top will generate a lot more reader interest than one with my usual mug at the top.

And I’ve got the research to prove it.

A recent Washington Post article examined a research study focusing on bias in the press and came to this strong conclusion, summed up in the headline: “Study shows the media has a clear bias – in favour of dogs.”

The article talks about how researchers from the University of California and the University of Miami identified 18 dog-related stories and a corresponding 334 non-dog related articles.

The results? In short, the dog-related stories were more than three times as likely to be picked up and run by other newspapers. The conclusion is that editors like dogs and know that people like to read about them too.

Put a dog in a story and readership goes up.

There is also another similar phenomenon about cats, but since I am allergic to that species, I’m not going to address it here. I feel somewhat vindicated by this research after being mocked for years by fellow reporters who called me the Canine Beat Reporter or who laughed at my efforts to write stories about hard-hitting topics like: “What is the most popular dog name in Salmon Arm?” (At that time Max was the big winner) or “The working dogs of Salmon Arm.”

So I say what the Observer actually needs is more dog stories.

And Willow will back me up on that.



Pets, and not just dogs,  are also an important part of Christmas. Share a memory with us about your holiday with your pet and you could be part of a holiday feature in the Observer. Email submissions to before Dec. 15. No more than 300 words, please. Pet pictures are welcome.